I can’t decide whether to be annoyed or amused by the opinion piece by Andrew Hacker entitled “Is Algebra Necessary?” in the New York Times on Sunday*. Annoyed because it is such an obviously flawed piece of writing, essentially saying that since (in the US) the system is failing to teach lots of people basic mathematics in school, the solution is to stop teaching it rather than figure out what is going wrong with the teaching process, while at the same time very lamely trying to make the case that it has no use anyway. Amused because it’s obviously flawed, and hopefully anyone reading it will laugh – one’s first thought has to be that it is not a serious article, given that it it is published in a respectable newspaper with reasonably educated editors.
But one can’t – shouldn’t – laugh, since there are (sadly) many people (lots of whom Continue reading ‘New York Times Nonsense’
I was very impressed with the presentation Julien Bobroff gave in Monday’s public dialogue here at the Aspen Center for Physics. It was all about Superconductivity, and he and his team have done a tremendous job of putting together lots of materials for exploring this topic. Its a great example of some really careful thinking producing very accessible ways into understanding a remarkable quantum mechanical phenomenon that has quite a bit of striking and direct impact on a number of walks of life. This makes for great material for everyone, whether you are an expert physicist (who might want to show some of this to others), a teacher who wants some good materials to your classes, or simply someone who is not an expert but just find yourself curious about the world.
Have a look at their excellent website where everything is collected together, Continue reading ‘Superconductivity for You!’
And now he has a friend. I find this process endlessly absorbing, I must say.
This is the first of the characters for The Project that I wanted to construct in 3D this week. (See last post for my thoughts on this.) I plan to do a few more over the next couple of days. but right now I’m going to stop and think about other things for a bit lest my collaborators think I’ve gone entirely bonkers and am now playing with dolls*.
*Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
Yesterday I suddenly decided that I was going to teach myself a new technique, which will be useful for The Project. I wanted to do some sketching in 3D – modelling if you prefer – but with my actual hands on the material. I love thinking about how faces and bodies are put together, and try to bring that out in my sketches on paper, but how about doing it in 3D, to further explore and appreciate things? This would ultimately be also extremely useful in future character design, global consistency when pencilling pages, and so forth. Messing around with plasticine (or its variants) is something I’ve not done since my teens, and I don’t think I ever did much in the way of faces back then, so this would be a fun new challenge.
I went into town and found a place that has some art supplies, and eventually found Continue reading ‘Sketching in 3D’
I stopped off in LA after Amsterdam, to recharge and to just be home for a bit. The garden is now bursting with tomatoes of various types, I’m happy to report, and you only need to wait a day or two in order to pick a variety pack such as the lovely one above. (Click for larger view.) I brought a bunch of them to Aspen with me, and continue to work through them, in cooking, sandwiches like the ones I’m just about to eat for lunch, and so forth.
I’ve had none of the rodent problems with the tomatoes this year, since I Continue reading ‘Tomato Bounty’
I had a pleasant surprise yesterday. I went along to the public lecture of Ralph Cicerone, the president of the National Academy of Science, since on the one hand his talk was entitled “Contemporary Climate Change as Seen Through Data”, so it was interesting to me, and on the other hand I was to be part of a group taking him to dinner later on. I went into the auditorium and lo and behold there was Rosie Wyse (Aspen Center for Physics President) up on the screen…! They were showing the film (what film? see e.g. here, here, and here) in the time leading up to the start of the lecture, as people were arriving. It was nice to see it up on a large screen being enjoyed by an audience…
Overall, the reports back are that everyone seems to love it, and that it has been Continue reading ‘On Screen!’
It turns out that a really great way of passing the time when listening to someone give a talk is to do some sketch practice. [... wait, what? The post title? Oh! No, no, don't be silly. Ok., let me continue ...] If the subject matter is right, it’s a good thing to do while you focus on what’s being said. This last couple of days I’ve been in Aspen, Colorado, and I’m starting out my visit here with a three day conference entitled “Becoming Engaged: Initiatives That Can Change Science Education”. You can see more about it on a dedicated website hosted by ICAM. One of the people behind it is David Pines, and we’ve had many conversations about science outreach and science education over the years, and so he invited me to participate. I’m supposed to be here at Aspen for my visit to the Aspen Center for Physics, and so I’m only partially attending, opting to to listen to some talks, and take part in some discussions… then going back over to the center to hear some LHC and Higgs chatter on the LHC workshop that is starting up this week.
There are a lot of interesting people talking about science education, and science outreach, many describing their various approaches and projects in short talks and presentations. (I will tell you about some of them in future posts.) It is great to meet several people who are passionate about outreach too, and see what others are up to and share ideas… so this is a valuable time. Hopefully, some action ideas will come of this meeting that Continue reading ‘Becoming Engaged…’
So one of the reasons I love this blog is the community of people who read, sometimes occasionally making comments or suggestions. On my original post saying I was visiting in Amsterdam a while, there was a suggestion from commenter Kramer to try a restaurant somewhat off the beaten path, but worth a visit. I cautiously did my research, decided that it looked good, and on the last night of the trip, went along with a friend to try it out.
My goodness what an excellent place! It was just wonderful, and one of the things that was great for me was that the restaurant – Marius – is a spiritual cousin of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’ legendary restaurant in Berkeley that I’m a fan of. (See also an article in the NY Times about it here. Since that article was written, the restaurant has moved to slightly larger premises down the road, and now takes cards.) The chef-owner of Marius, Kees Elfring, worked at Chez Panisse for some time a while back. The same philosophy of locally sourced fine ingredients fuels the place, and (as Kees Elfring told us – he came and sat at the table for a while to chat) Marius is one of the Continue reading ‘Marius’
Spotted on a table of old instruments while wandering around London’s Portobello Road market two Sundays ago.
(Click for a larger view.)
I found the labelling amusing.
Any idea what this might be?
In Rotterdam a couple of weekends ago, the North Sea Jazz Festival took place. It was an excellent event. Well, I think it was, based on my Saturday trip there with some friends – I assume that the other two days were at least as good. We were there from the start at about 4:00pm until about 11:30pm, when we went back (via trains, with an adventure story for another day) to Amsterdam. Seven and a half hours is a good amount of time for some excellent music to be heard and seen…
Turns out that there was great news for me right from the get go on this event. One of my favourite saxophonists from the younger generation playing out there these days, Joshua Redman, was the artist in residence for the event this year, and he did two concerts that day, in different configurations. (I say younger… I’ve been following his work for 20 years, since I first arrived in the USA all the way back (Princeton), shortly after his second album appeared. He was one of the hot new musicians on the scene at the time… But that was 20 years ago, so I suppose it’s time to use a different term…?)
I’ve seen him play a number of times over the years, on both coasts, in tiny clubs and in larger concert halls, and he’s always been great. This time he was probably the best I’ve ever seen him, and that’s saying something, since he’s usual so very good, along with the musicians he has in his bands. This time he’s part of a newer band called “James Continue reading ‘Gifts from the North Sea’
It wasn’t all lecture halls, discussion rooms, and cafeterias for the workshop. The organizers arranged for a boat tour last week, and we all sat on one of those splendid long, wide and low tour boats that you often see on the canals in Amsterdam. It was nicely equipped with a bottle of wine at each table, and the crew members handed us each a glass of sparkling wine as we embarked. Very nice. There was a lot of fun chatter from each table for the whole trip around the canals (so much so that they stopped the attempts to inform us over the PA system about some of the sights we were seeing, since the sound was drowned out by the conversations), covering (from what I could hear) a wide range of topics from well beyond physics to matters concerning topics presented in the workshop.
Sometimes pads of paper and pens appeared. Above is a group (David Tong, Continue reading ‘Working Group’
You’ll recall me mentioning filmmaker Valerie Weiss from earlier posts this year about her debut feature film “Losing Control”. Well, she wrote a guest post* for the website Women and Hollywood this week. It was about a recent film made for the European Commission to encourage girls to go into science. Apparently it was awful. (I’d heard about it from someone else too, but did not get to see it. [Update: Yikes! Seen it... Yikes!**]) Valerie shares some thoughts Continue reading ‘Valerie Weiss on Women, Science, and Film’
One of my favourite scenes from the vast world of film is the one in the Shining where Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) discovers that all her husband Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) had been writing on the typewriter for so long (when he was supposed to be working on his book) was “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, again and again and again. There’s something utterly chilling about this, as the tension in the film has been building steadily, and the discovery reveals another seemingly solid foundation crumbling away…
The Eye film museum in Amsterdam is fantastic. For a start, it is in a wonderful building (see right -click for larger view) that you get to by taking one of the small ferry boats across from the Central Station, a fun journey. Right now they are having Continue reading ‘All Work and No Play…’
The workshop has been fantastic, overall. In between discussions, the talks, and some thinking about my own projects, I’ve had some time to wander a bit, and look around. Yesterday after lunch I wandered a bit and then found myself settling down and doing a sketch of a bridge at a junction with lots to see. The Amstel is joined by Prinsengracht canal here, and it was fun to sit a while and put down some pencil lines, followed by firmer ink lines. I pulled the result into the iPad and splashed on some colour for good measure.
Having finished the paper last week, it has been fun to field questions about it from various people, as well as think at a more leisurely pace about the next Continue reading ‘The Bridge’
Well, the workshop is going well. I had to miss a talk this morning in order to carry on with this writing of a paper I was doing. Basically, we’re over due in producing our submission to a special volume of some publication or other that is going to be all about magnetic fields and models of strongly coupled matter… As you may have gathered by now, I’ve dabbled in magnetic fields for some several years by now, so it was natural to be asked. My collaborator in a lot of these dabblings, Tameem Albash, and a student, Scott MacDonald, and I have been working on a suitable project for a while, and due to my travels and entanglements with a previous project, I’ve made us all a bit late.
The last few days have been difficult for writing. I’d forgotten Continue reading ‘Slow Writing’
Dont forget that today there will be big announcements of the latest results from the LHC about the search for the Higgs…(and some of us are hoping for news about what might be the beginning of the search for what lies beyond…)
There are so many live blogs, so follow a few… Like Resonances… for an expert view, Matt Strassler, for another expert view, or Quantum Diaries, for a non-expert view.
(update… Looks like it is a strong enough set of results, statistically, to call the Higgs discovered… Hurrah!
And with possible hints of new physics too? Excellent….)
Further update… A CERN press release is to be found here. Also, looks like any deviation from the standard model Higgs, at least for the decay channels examined so far, is very small… So there’s a lot left to do and understand…
Amsterdam! I’m here for a workshop for a while. It is on string theory – many aspects – and so the mix of people is a good one overall, with conversations ranging from high energy physics, the LHC (including the Higgs announcement at CERN expected tomorrow) and black holes all the way over to condensed matter and various kinds of exotic physics one can do in the laboratory in that context. It should be an excellent time here… It is good to be back in the city after over a decade, and to catch up with a number of friends and colleagues in the field. I also want to properly explore the city this time, not having done that much exploration last time. (Photo above is a snap taken of the lovely moon that came out last night, with the Amstel and accompanying reflections and so forth… Was pretty to see.)
I’ve been trying to read some notes in preparation for working on a draft of a
Continue reading ‘Amsterdam!’